In this write-up, you'll notice that (shock and horror!) there are only four solitary tastes listed. No, I haven't temporarily lost control of my extremities (thereby inhibiting my counting skills)-- I've sort of been on lockdown. With work piling up and responsibility looming, I haven't been doing as much culinary gallivanting as you've come to expect from me. I know, I'm a disappointment, Miley and I are just hanging out and feeling guilty...However, these 4 tastes are quality, and show that in lieu of such restaurant-ing, I've been sandwiching home cooking in between my lengthy work sessions. Behold, my hopefully anomalous Top 4 Tastes...
1. Soba Salad -- (Washington, DC)
Is it super gauche to mention ones own cooking in such a list? Since my preparation of this dish involved simply following a recipe with minimal personal creativity, I feel that this is kosher. I'd previously sampled this hearty yet refreshing salad and had been jonesing to make it ever since. With their earthy buckwheat flavor, soba noodles feel filling and substantial but not too carbtastic, and the mix of fresh fruits and vegetables added to the lightness of the salad. The sauce was a mixture of miso, soy, and rice wine vinegar with a dash of Sriracha (the recipe calls for chile, which I sadly couldn't find)--a perfect storm of Asian flavors--the Umami enveloping each noodle with saucy fervor. Fresh cilantro and mint continued the refreshing trend, as did sweet (even in Fall!) strawberries and crunchy cucumbers and celery (my own addition.) I paired it with a soy-butter-miso roasted chicken, and plenty of red wine. We ate the rest for leftovers, while watching yet another of Carrie Matheson's psychotic breakdown, and the flavors, which had deepened en frigidaire, were almost superior to night #1.
2. Scallops in the "Petit Plateau" -- Le Diplomate (Washington, DC)
When a huge platter of shellfish arrives at the table, you stop what you're doing, whether it's pounding a cocktail or discussing events of the day. It's just what you do. You brandish your skinny fork, grab the cocktail sauce and lemon wedges and go ham (in the parlance of our times) on some marine creatures. This one featured the usual suspects--oysters, peel and eat shrimp and even some king crab legs. What got me, though ,was some sublime slices of scallop seasoned so very delicately with minutely chopped herbs and citrus. I just love that texture which can only be described (in the breathy voice of a repressed woman turned romance novelist) as supple.
3. Pork Loin expertly cooked -- Kara's Place (Brooklyn, NY)
Few things could be better, in my opinion, then a Saturday spent entirely cooking in the company of a friend. Bloody Mary's in hand, we chopped, twined and caramelized, producing a meal after no less than 5 hours. But why rush? It's Saturday. Watching Kara's pork start-to-finish was almost as entertaining as eating it--from the old-school Italian butcher next door who sold us the meat, with a side of spicy character Arabiatta, to watching Kara's exceedingly precise twining and seasoning, followed by a long, slow roast in the oven. What emerged was tender and far from dry--an affliction that so often plagues the other white meat. Packed with herby garlic flavors, the pork played off the eggplant, tzatziki and couscous we had also prepared. Thyme shone through very strongly in the meat's flavors, and I realized I do not eat enough well-prepared, succulent pork loin. Why can't every Saturday be this way?
4. Beef -- Gwynnett Street (Brooklyn, NY)
My mother's work trips to New York are thankfully quite frequent, and we spend many lovely dinners together sipping on red wine and discussing the many faux-woes that make me a self-indulgent person in her mid-twenties. Since she stayed in Brooklyn with me, I took dinner as an opportunity to further explore the 'hood, and try out Gwynnett Street, of which I had heard lot. The careful, thoughtful food was exactly what the doctor had ordered--particularly my beef which arrived so beautifully presented I was loath to dig in immediately. Creamy shelling beans, thin scrapings of zucchini and miso-glazed eggplant surrounded the beef which was majestically pink on the inside. The plate in no way overwhelmed--the meat was a delicate portion and I cleaned the plate with ease and a feeling of fulfillment. SO often red meat leaves one flat-out, but this portion and dish did no such thing.